Introducing the Project in Haiti

Welcome to my blog!

I am a teacher and researcher from the University of Delaware who attempting to help some young teachers set up a foreign language school in their town.  I will be spending one week in Haiti from March 28 through April 5, 2014.  This blog will be a record of the experiences I have in Haiti and a way to show others that much help is still needed.

The roots of this project began with a group called the Haiti Family Initiative.  The founders, Lynn and Nadiv Shapira, answered a humanitarian call to help people in Haiti soon after the hurricane stuck.  They settled their humanitarian work in a city called Jacmel, located to the southwest of Port au Prince.  By bus, it takes about 3 hours to reach this city on the southern Haitian coast.

The Haitian Family Initiative has been working in Jacmel for the last five summers.  They have coordinated a series of “camps” each summer, some of which lasted five weeks. These camps have been staffed by doctors and nurses, many of whom work for Christiana Hospital,  teachers, young adult and adult volunteers.  The medical camps do what they can to treat disease and illnesses, including giving assistance to pregnant women, breast feeding clinics and child care basics.  While the doctors and nurses held the medical clinics, the other adults  worked with the local children to provide lunch, creative activities and games.  Many of these children do not attend school since the cost of school, any schooling, has to be paid by the parents or other individual.

I was part of the support group for the Haiti Family Initiative when Dr. Nadiv Shapira and Lynn Shapira asked me to help a group of young people in Jacmel to start a Foreign Language Institute.  They asked me to do this, even though they both knew I was not a specialist in teaching English as a second language, because I am a teacher of English, but I am also involved in disaster research and disaster events as they affect literacy.

In Jacmel, I am working with a group of college age students, 19-24, who were left without a University to attend after the earthquake.  These young men and women are directed and driven by a dream they share; they want to build a foreign language school in which they can teach their fellow Haitians to speak English.  The goal in learning English is to reach beyond the boarders of Haiti for schooling and to participate more fully in the world.

It has taken some time for me to meet these young people.  I was scheduled to go to Haiti in the summer of 2013, but a serious health crisis prevented me from making the trip.  Instead, I created a series of video tapes, each one dedicated to the basic principles of teaching the English language arts along with teaching material, lesson plan formats and books on teaching.  Perhaps of equal importance is the fact that  this project in Haiti allows me to continue to study disaster events and literacy.  I have studied and published articles and a book detailing the literacy habits of adolescents and adults after a disaster.  The people of Haiti past and present has certainly had their share of crises and disasters.

On March 28, I will finally be heading to Haiti to work with these 8 or 9 young men and women.  I want to record what happens in Jacmel as I work with these young English teachers.  As an ethnographer, I mean to use the blog as a way to reflect and record each day’s progress in teaching but also in recording how literacy is at work in this disaster setting.

I hope that those of you reading this blog will find the entries informative and perhaps even entertaining as I blunder my way through this new project on disaster, teaching and literacy.





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